Rickie Fowler started 2021 in an unfamiliar place, on the outside looking into Augusta National. In the No. 53 spot on the Official World Golf Ranking when the calendar flipped on Jan. 1, the five-time PGA Tour winner is currently without an exemption into the field for April’s Masters Tournament, an event he has played every year since 2011.
Fowler does not have the build of a modern power player like Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau or Dustin Johnson. At 5-foot, 9-inches and tipping the scale at 150 pounds, he needs precision and a steady putter to contend. Those elements of his game have been slipping for the past two seasons, and last year Fowler missed six cuts then failed to make it out of the first round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time as a full-time PGA Tour member.
With that in mind, it should not be a surprise that Fowler is open to making some equipment changes. His heel-toe weighted Scotty Cameron putter, which had been originally made for Tiger Woods, has been benched. He is using a mallet-style putter nowadays. Fowler has already transitioned into the 2021 version of the TaylorMade TP5x Pix ball too. But the most significant change is Rickie Fowler has switched to graphite shafts in his irons. Specially, he has switched into a 125-gram version of Mitsubishi’s MMT TX shaft.
As equipment lovers may recall, Fowler started last year using a prototype set of Cobra irons, but at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he put a 2013 set of Cobra AMP Cell Pro irons in play. Fowler did that because he did not want to take the shafts out of his new prototype irons but still wanted to try some new iron shafts.
At the Floridian Golf Club in Palm City, Florida, last December, Fowler tested new iron shafts with Cobra’s PGA Tour rep Ben Schomin, including the Mitsubishi MMT in a 5-, 7- and 9-iron. He liked them and found his dispersion pattern tightened, meaning that when he missed his target, his misses were closer to where he wanted the ball to land.
After requesting a full set be made, Fowler has taken the graphite leap and matched them with his proto irons.
“(I was) playing them the last few weeks at home,” Fowler said Thursday after shooting a 1-over 73 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course in the opening round of the American Express. “Not really an adjustment or anything. Graphite is a bit more expensive, so it’s not like all of golf is going to go that way, but what they are able to do with graphite and how they can manipulate the shafts like they do with the drivers, they can almost build a shaft almost specifically for each iron.”
Fowler is hardly the first PGA Tour player to go with graphite in tournament play. Abraham Ancer has been using Mitsubishi MMT iron shafts for almost two years. Bryson DeChambeau also plays graphite shafts in his irons. However, Fowler’s willingness to try graphite shafts is another sign that graphite iron shafts’ stigma of only being for slow-swinging senior players is going away.
“I’m getting older. I’m 32,” said Fowler, sarcastically. “Flight-wise, everything tightened up. The numbers were pretty similar. Like I said, not a big adjustment. I was really impressed with them. It’s been fun playing with them the last month or so.”
It’s the same message that Mitsubishi’s manager of product development rep, Zane Nuttall, has been espousing.
“The industry and the players these days are keeping a much more open mind about just getting in the door, testing and experimenting to find something that performs,” Reed said.
Fowler birdied the 16th and 18th holes on the Stadium Course on Friday to get to 5 under and make the cut for the weekend.